Documentary:  'Winter On Fire'
Issue: December 1, 2015

Documentary: 'Winter On Fire'

Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom is a documentary that chronicles the events that unfolded over 93 days in 2013 and 2014, as student demonstrations in support of European integration turned into a violent revolution calling for the end to a corrupt national regime. Campbell-Grobman Films’ (below, L-R)  Lati Grobman and  Christa Campbell recently talked to  Post  about their work on the feature, which is on the shortlist of 15 documentaries being considered for Oscar contention. 

Post: What were some of the challenges of creating this feature?

Lati Grobman: “I think the most difficult task when filming Winter on Fire was to figure out a way to get coverage in multiple locations, as events were unfolding simultaneously. It was almost impossible to predict what would be happening next and where, but it was so important to try and be in every place to capture as many key moments as possible. Because we had such a great, dedicated crew and a talented team of real filmmakers, volunteers and journalists who all became a part of our project, they were able to tell an extremely detailed and cinematic story about Maidan. No one was thinking about how they were risking their lives. No one was thinking about the best shots, but each and every person was thinking about how to capture what happened and show it to the entire world. The whole credit goes to our director/producer Evgeny Afineevsky, who risked his life making this movie. We were not at all educated about the situation in Ukraine until we met Evgeny and saw the footage. We are still learning about it every day.”

Christa Campbell: “Lati and I received an early cut of Winter on Fire. We were blown away by what we were seeing and knew we had to get this film out in the world, so we sent the film to Adam Del Deo at Netflix and he called us immediately saying we have to release this film. Then, with the amazing team at Netflix, Adam Del Deo and Lisa Nishimura brought in Rock Paper Scissors to re-edit the film and then it began.”
Post: What formats were the events captured on? 

Lati Grobman: “Initially, HD Canon camcorders, but with the events unfolding very fast and spontaneous, the footage was captured with various equipment, such as DSLR cameras, camcorders, GoPros, cellphones and streaming devices.”

Post: Who provided post production services – editorial, sound mixing, music, etc.?

Lati Grobman: “The first cut was assembled in Ukraine, then we moved editing to the USA. We brought on board Angus Wall and his team at Rock Paper Scissors, who produced Errol Morris’ movies, and Jasha Klebe, who was working side by side with Hans Zimmer, and he has created an astonishing score. The final finish of the movie (color, DI and Mix) was done back in Ukraine.”

Post: Did the film come together the way you had imagined?

Christa Campbell: “Better! Our editor, Will Znidaric, elevated the movie to an extremely powerful piece.”

Post: What does it mean to be in the Oscar race, and what do you think about documentaries as a category these days?

Christa Campbell: “Documentaries are very important and educational. It's a great honor to be on the shortlist. This film really deserves to go all the way.”

Lati Grobman: “To me it’s a dream come true. I have always been a doc-addict, so to be acknowledged for something you love is a pleasant feeling. Documentaries are taking more of a front stage because of the state of the world today. People really want to know what is going on. They don't trust the news outlets anymore because of the big corporate agenda. It feels — and rightly so — that documentaries are a more reliable and neutral source of information.”

Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman are producing three films that will be released in 2016:The Bleeder (Chuck Wepner biopic starring Liev Schreiber & Naomi Watts), Criminal (action thriller with Kevin Costner, Gard Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones & Ryan Reynolds), and Leatherface (prequel to popular Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise).